American Standard was formed in Denver, Colorado during the winter of 1967. The original lineup consisted of:
Jeff Cook: vocals
Tommy Bolin: guitar
Terry Knieff: bass
Michael Lothamer: drums
Tommy arrived in Denver from Sioux City during the fall of 1967 following the breakup of Patch of Blue and leaving high school in the 11th grade at age 15. He was getting by living wherever he could and playing for change on the streets around Larimer Street and in clubs at night. One snowy winter evening Tommy was walking downtown and heard a band playing in the basement of a dress shop. He knocked on the window and was allowed to come in. The band was called Cross Town Bus, and their singer was Jeff Cook, who went on to play with Tommy in Energy and supply Tommy with lyrics for some of the most beloved songs of his career. Tommy was insistent about jamming with them, and even though he was very young the band went along with it. Impressed, the band fired their guitarist the next day and the new lineup became American Standard.
American Standard quickly became the house band for The Family Dog at 1601 West Evans in Denver. Denver’s Family Dog was affiliated with Chet Helms’ Family Dog in San Francisco and also Chet Helms’ Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon. The promoter for the Family Dog was Barry Fey, who would play a large role in Tommy’s life until his death. Other national acts that played the venue included Cream, Canned Heat, The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and The Grateful Dead. On February 14, 1968 an American Standard show featured a guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix.
In 2004 drummer Michael Lothamer related, “I am proud of my humble place in rock history as American Standard’s drummer, a job that wouldn’t have been possible for me to fill if Tommy hadn’t turned to me when he saw me struggling to be heard above the tremendous volume his Twin Reverb and pleated Kustom amps were putting out and the Standell amp that Terry was playing through (no such thing as putting mics on the drums in those days) at The Family Dog ballroom at 1601 W. Evans Avenue in Denver in 1967 where we were the house band for the world’s psychedelic pantheon of groups that summer and said ‘Hey Michael, I’ve got it… just lift your whole leg up on that bass drum and kick the holy shit out of it! And let’s get a mic on that snare, and one for the cymbals too!’ And the American Rock Power Trio was born. Of course we had four because Jeff Cook was singing, but even with the state of the art sound system at the club one could rarely hear the voice over the volume so we tended to play along with Tommy for 45 to 90 minute solos. Wheww… my heart is pounding now at the memory of the awesome energy that he generated.”
“Contrary to what Jeff Cook wrote in The Ultimate box set, we were the quintessential garage band. We had quite a following and were good enough to hold our position as the house band for the duration of the life of The Family Dog. We played with dozens of groups that were innovating modern post-bubblegum and pop garbage. Our repertoire was fusion of the truest kind… Donovan, Dylan, Hendrix, Kinks, lots of Robert Johnson blues and other stuff that was just obscure, as well as a few originals. Jeff wrote a song that evolved into the James Gang’s hit ‘Must Be Love.’ It was called ‘Bring It On Up.’ We played other venues around the state and that’s where Candy and David Givens saw us, in Aspen. And they kinda stole him away… but I gotta say they were something to see… such energy and power. And John Faris on that Hammond B3 organ was awesome.”
“The band played a few gigs at local 3.2 beer bars, where you could get in if you were 18, but you had to be 21 to play. A couple of times the cops came up to the stage between songs and asked to see Tommy’s ID. Tommy smiled and said ‘I don’t need any ID, I know who I am I’m TOMMY BOLIN!’ and he would launch into the next song at full volume, knocking the cops back against the wall!! But by the time we were done the cops were fans, and remember Tommy was just 16 years old!”
“My girlfriend’s studio apartment was at 1100 Logan Street, Tommy used to shower there. Her name was Colleen Myers and that’s her with my head in her lap in the photo Jeff Cook took that appears in The Ultimate booklet.”
“Another time Tommy and I were visiting my parents at the defunct Catholic orphanage which was this huge gothic place, and of course Tommy found the giant pipe organ in the chapel! He played it so fine and even the nuns liked his rendition of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ so much they brought us cake and ice cream!”
The band broke up in 1968 and Tommy left for a short period spent in Cincinnati before returning to Colorado and forming Ethereal Zephyr with John Faris, and then in the fall of 1968 forming Zephyr in Boulder with Candy and David Givens. American Standard left no official releases. Michael Lothamer has related that some recordings were made by Skip, the sound man at The Family Dog, but they were stolen and have never appeared in the collector community.
KNOWN SHOWS AT THE FAMILY DOG
The Family Dog was at 1601 West Evans in Denver, Colorado. It was affiliated with Chet Helms’ Family Dog in San Francisco and also Chet Helms’ Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon. The promoter for the Family Dog was Barry Fey.
October 21 - American Standard plus other local bands
December 21 - A Benefit for Sharie Duncan (an injured CU student) featuring Allman Joy, Eighth Penny Matter, Leopold Fuchs, Jimmerfield Legend and American Standard
January 12 & 13 - Beggars Opera Company, American Standard, Eighth Penny Matter
February 9 & 10 - American Standard and Leopold Fuchs H. Bomb
February 14 - American Standard and guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix
Copyright ©2005 John Herdt.